Tributes have been flooding in following the death of Lionel Batiste, vocalist, bass drummer and assistant of leader of the Treme Brass Band. He was 81 at the time of his passing. As one of the member of the band, Batiste was found on HBO series 'Treme' and was a key part of the group. The Press Association reports that the man known as 'Uncle Lionel' had been ill for about a month, family and others close to him were by his bedside when he died yesterday at the Oschner Health System's hospital outside of New Orleans.
The group's clarinettist Michael White said of his old band mate "He would bring joy and just New Orleans spirit. ... He made people feel good about themselves and about living." White also imparted a tale of how Batiste survived the atrocious Hurricane Katrina in 2005, using his faithful bass drum as a flotation device. "The water kept rising," White said. "He couldn't swim. The water was too high for him to walk out. He saved himself by floating out on top of his bass drum."
"Heartbroken" Actor Wendell Pierce paid tribute too, saying "He's part of a long line of great musicians and great family. I was honored to have his name, the name of the character I played, and know that his legacy will live on." Treme's lead vocalist Walter 'Whoadie' Ramsey meanwhile commented "I will always respect what he did for New Orleans' music."